Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), board member of former vice president of presumptive Democratic President Joe Biden, attends a coronavirus briefing in a temporary studio at the DuPont Hotel on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Kamala Harris bring out the equalizing voice about the $ 1.9 billion Covid bill from the Democrats that became the law of the land last week, which was again a striking moment for the first female vice president in U.S. history.
This week, Harris, who is of Indian descent, is at the center of the government’s efforts to face growing anti-Asian violence.
Harris may not be the president, but for those at the forefront of the struggle to see a woman behind the fixed desk, her rise to second place is an undeniable victory to build on.
“It’s a big milestone to cross,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of the political action committee Emily’s List, which has been at the forefront of the struggle since 1985. ‘She will be in the room where the big decisions are made. , where the agenda is set, with a perspective that has never been there before. ‘
In addition to being the first female vice president, Harris offers the perspective that she is the first black woman and the first Asian American woman to hold office. Her multiracial background made her a compelling choice for then-elected President Joe Biden when he sought a running mate who could lock up the Democratic voters’ coalition he needed to win.
But Harris initially had higher ambitions. She was one of six Democratic women to run for president in 2020, a historic achievement in itself in a political system that has been hostile to women candidates since its inception.
“By 2020, there were six women going on, it was a very positive change for this process,” Schriock said. “There’s usually only one, and it’s only happened a few times in our history.”
Harris’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Efforts to get a woman elected to the highest office in the country have been going on for more than a century. In 1872, Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to be elected as a candidate for the party for equal rights. Dozens of women have tried to gain a foothold in the following years, and they are listed here.
The most important milestone came a full century later when Representative Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to be elected to the Democratic nomination and the first woman to win votes at the Democratic National Convention.
“Shirley Chisolm was really an important moment for women in this country,” Schriock said, even though her candidate at the time was mostly considered symbolic.
And then Hillary Clinton changed the game dramatically. The former first lady and New York senator brought real world experience and gravitas to her 2008 presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016.
In her second campaign, the former foreign minister became the first woman to win a major party nomination, and it looks like she’s ready to win it all.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally in Cleveland, November 6, 2016.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
“Hillary Clinton was considered not only viable, but also a forerunner,” said Kelly Dittmar, associate professor of political science at Rutgers University.
Her loss in the election to Republican Donald Trump was a huge blow to her legions of supporters, but Clinton won the referendum by 3 million, proving that Americans were finally willing to put their trust in a female leader.
That election also exposed the worst stereotypes that kept women from the country’s best position.
“One of the bigger gender stories in 2016 was the doubling of a traditional and toxic form of masculinity that Donald Trump” trusted to win the election, “Dittmar added.
Trump has aggressively attacked his rivals, using offensive language and racial and gender stereotypes to incite voter fear and insecurity. His extreme tactics helped him win the Republican nomination and record enough votes in three traditionally blue states to secure an election college victory over Clinton.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who ran for the Republican nomination in the 2016 election, experienced Trump’s sexism firsthand when he made famous comments to disrespect her appearance.
Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., and Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, step on stage during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, September 16. , 2015.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Fiorina, who was the first woman to run a fortune 500 business, said she was used to being the only woman in the room and getting comments about her appearance. But she puts the awkward shoe on the other foot: ‘Donald Trump’s remarks about my face and all that, I think it was an example of some men who did not really know how to deal with’ female competitors’. she said interview.
She addressed his remarks from the debate phase where she was able to communicate unfiltered with her audience. “What I wanted to convey was that every woman in America understands that when a man comments on your appearance, whether it’s under your skill or your ability, it’s not appropriate, whether it’s a positive remark or is a negative remark, “she said. “Your opinion about my appearance is not only inappropriate, it is also irrelevant.”
Trump was not the only one to engage in sexist behavior during that chaotic election season. The press paid more attention to Clinton’s dress, hair and attitude than Trump’s, Dittmar said.
Hillary Clinton speaks while Donald Trump watches during the presidential debate in City Hall at the University of Washington on October 9, 2016 in St. Louis.
Rick Wilking-Pool | Getty Images
The media also gave Trump more coverage. A report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center found that Trump received about 15% more coverage than Clinton.
But the attitude of the electorate remains the main obstacle in a woman’s path to the presidency: there is the idea that the president ‘should be someone we want to have a beer with, and it’s usually a man’, said Nadra Kareem Nittle, a veteran journalist. which covers politics and public policy.
The rest of the world has had less trouble producing political leaders. Dittmar explained that the structure of the US government has a lot to do with it. Most female leaders from Britain to Pakistan were prime ministers elected by their party, not by direct elections.
In America it is different. “We have a very candidate-centered electoral system that reinforces the stereotypical challenges. The presidency is a particularly masculine office. It still gives strength and value to masculine qualities.”
The president is, after all, the commander-in-chief, “yes, we associate the roles with a man,” Fiorina said.
Clinton’s historic run-up and devastating loss, however, showed a turning point in the search for women for the highest office.
“What caused her loss was an ignition of the political power of millions of women across the country who erupted in rage and then elected their passion to save their communities, and their officials,” Schriock said.
According to Emily’s List, 60,000 women in the four years since the 2016 election have sought support to present themselves, Schriock said. This compares with 962 women in the 2015-16 cycle.
Some of these women won a record number of seats in Congress during the 2018 interim period, which helped turn the house blue and hand over the speaker’s hammer to Nancy Pelosi.
Clinton’s historic career also paved the way for the six female Democrats who ran the presidential campaign in 2020, including Harris and Sens Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Despite all the progress and diversity of Democratic primary leadership in 2020, voters ultimately choose 78-year-old white man Joe Biden as the nominee to run it with Trump.
Dittmar says the “eligibility myth” has led to voter behavior. “Democratic voters are particularly motivated by a sense of urgency to beat Donald Trump,” she said. And an older white man seems to be the safest bet.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with Senator Kamala Harris following the 2020 Democratic US presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
But he chooses a 56-year-old black woman as a walking partner, calling him a ‘transitional figure’ and ‘a bridge to the future’.
She said Harris was instrumental in their victory and President Biden “clearly considers herself a partner, a teammate.”
So will Harris be the one to finally make the leap?
Her role is still being written by the administration. There’s worry about breaking down the responsibilities of the neck in the Senate will hamper her ability to tackle more meaty tasks that will give her the kind of executive experience voters will accept.
Harris’ background as a female woman can make the journey more difficult if she prefers to run.
On the campaign trail of 2020, she faced discrimination as a competitor Trump has spread a racist conspiracy theory for birther based on her immigrant parents, who were from Jamaica and India. Republican officials often mispronounce her first name, which some see as discriminatory.
“It says you do not belong, you are different,” said A’shanti Gholar, president of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. told the Sacramento Bee.
Those obstacles will not go away.
What’s more, observers say Democrats are unlikely to clear the field within four or eight years for a Harris candidacy amid memories of Hillary Clinton’s near-coronation in 2016. An overcrowded pre-election is almost a given.
Nevertheless, her current platform as vice president gives her benefits that no other woman has ever had, if she gets the leadership role the campaign promised when she got the nod.
“Being a woman and a colored person will make it harder for her than other vice presidents,” Nittle said. “But she’s clearly in a better position to become president than any American woman in history.”